Law Restricting Palestinian Family Reunification Extended at Shin Bet's Request

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MK Merav Michaeli (Labor).Credit: Emil Salman

A Knesset panel on Wednesday recommended extending the law restricting family reunification for Palestinians by another year, at the Shin Bet security service's request.

The recommendation followed a discussion in which the Shin Bet said over 10 percent of last year’s terror attacks were perpetrated by members of Palestinian families who obtained Israeli citizenship or residence due to family reunification. The service warned that people applying for family reunification present a potential danger and could use their permit to stay in Israel to perpetrate attacks and engage in espionage. However, the Shin Bet's figures and conclusions were challenged by several opposition MKs.

Some 12,500 people in Israel are currently in the process of family reunification, a Shin Ben official said. In 2015 and the beginning of 2016 a significantly larger number of relatives of Palestinians who went through family reunification were involved in terror. In this period 30 such people were involved in terror activity, constituting 73 percent of the active terrorists with Israeli identity cards, he said.

During this period 237 attacks and attempted attacks were carried out, the official said.

MK Osama Saadia (Joint List) countered by saying that 29 of the 30 people involved in terror had obtained their status as a result of the law to annex Jerusalem, and not through family reunification.

The Shin Bet said that in 2001-2016, 104 individuals from among those who received legal status in Israel via family reunification were involved in terror activity. Some received their status by marrying Israeli spouses and 87 of them are relatives of people who gained residence due to family reunification.

Representatives of Hamoked — the Center for the Defense of the Individual said the overwhelming majority of those who gained legal status due to family reunification are children who were born in Israel, mostly in East Jerusalem.

MK Ahmed Tibi (Joint List) said no applicants for family reunification were involved in any activity endangering state security. “Not a single one. How is the Shin Bet’s argument different from Smotrich? The children born here could take a gun and carry out an attack? This proves that this law has no security consideration at all. It’s because you see a love story between Palestinians as a plot against state security,” Tibi said.

MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) said he was not impressed by the Shin Bet’s argument “that this group poses a special danger or that there’s an advantage to extend the law.”

MK Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union) said “this panel was formed to examine the law every year and try to improve it. Clearly from what we’ve heard it needs humanitarian amendments.”

The law was enacted in 2003 and since 2004 to 2015 has been extended annually.

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